Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Good news for aspiring writers!

Because these days, apparently, you can get any old crap published. Any old offensive, outrageous, barking, evil crap at all.

A taste, if you can stomach it. My emphasis. Note the interesting elision from 'polygamy' in the headline to 'polygyny' in the article, and ponder on whether it was a nodding sub or a deliberate way to make this bilge look more palatable, or what. NOW READ ON ...
Yes, polygyny may lead to jealousy. We are all human. But ... the ultimate in giving is for a woman to give a fraction of her husband's time and affection to another woman who is willing to share with her. It is a spiritually rewarding experience that allows women to grow while the husband toils to provide for more than one partner.

... Many men in Western society complain about their mother-in-law or a “nagging” wife. If his wife and in-laws were difficult, would he seek more of the same? The willingness of a man to take on another wife is in fact a form of praise to his first wife.

While Islam sanctions polygyny, it does not condone threesomes. Islam also does not permit polyandry, a form of relationship in which a wife takes more than one husband. There are many reasons for this. Some are medical, some relate to paternity. Others pertain to the sexual proclivities of the different genders.

Yeah, see, you need to know who the father is. Because that's the most important question in the world. And everyone knows women don't like sex. And 'medical' -- hey, enough said. (It must be enough; he doesn't elaborate.)

Now re-read this article swapping the roles. Try to think of any man you have ever met or heard of who would accept that being one of several men in any woman's life would be a spiritual experience that would allow him to grow, or that he should look on it as a song of praise for him.

I know the blogosphere is particularly scone-hot on free speech so I take my life in my hands here. But this kind of stuff ought not to be allowed to poison our reading air. Speech is action, and some actions are not to be condoned.


Anonymous said...

Because of my Big Love addiction, I've spent a fair bit of time thinking about the legal status of polygamists and arguing with my crazy catholic friend about it. Eventually I came to the conclusion that although I have no desire to live in a polygamist relationship, and I have limited respect for religion (polygamist or otherwise), and being one of several wives has obvious problems for women, there are also good reasons for legalising polygamy. Being illegal has obviously failed to wipe it out in some communities, and they're going to do it anyway, so legally the question is how best to keep safe those involved. Women and children in those communities are really vulnerable and at the moment they are living without the benefits of family law. I don't think we can argue we're all for protecting those women if we're making it difficult for them to get out of relationships without losing their children, or if we make it difficult for them to access child support payments.

I also figure that if I want equal protections under family law for the sort of "alternative" families I approve of (gay parents, de facto relationships etc) then I can't very well support driving other types of families underground.

iODyne said...

Sorry ICG - Big Love creeped me out, but ditto from me on your final para ...
Re "Islam condones polygamy (but not a threesome)" in SLWC's post -
how the bloody hell is that policed ??!!

My conclusion: it all comes down to MONEY and support ie.
1. very hard for woman to mother several children and simultaneously earn the roof over their heads.
2. Rich men get away with flouting -
Mick Jaggers and James Goldsmiths with their many children by several women (without benefit of church)

They are not different from/than/to (choose the one you know is correct)
whacko cultists - it's all
The Cult of Self-Indulgence.

Elisabeth said...

My mother used to say, she loved all her children equally. I never bought this line, any more than I buy the line that any husband, or wife for that matter, could treat his multiple wives or her multiple husbands equally. It's just not possible.
I agree with Karen who writes a terrific tongue in cheek response to Mr Trad's article on 'polygyny' about how wonderful it would be as a wife to have multiple husbands. She highlights the degree to which such arrangements do not work equally and fairly for all parties concerned. Hence polygamy has something of the quality of taboo, like incest, to protect the vulnerable, and preserve the general, fair and just good of our communities.
Freedom of speech allows the likes of Mr Trad to publish his views but we need more writers and thinkers like you Pav, to challenge the assumptions on which they are based.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Innercitygarden, I'm not sure to what extent you're talking about the post and to what extent you're just musing more generally, but in case it's not clear enough, the post, like the article, is specifically about polygyny as opposed to polyandry. Polygamy qua polygamy -- where multiple spouses of either sex may be involved -- is another matter and not what I was taking issue with. I was taking issue with the appalling gender inequalities being touted as a superior way of life.

As for freedom of, erm, association, as it were, I don't care what other people do as long as they don't do it in front of me. That is a good point about supporting alternative families, but there is always a place in one's jostling convictions where push comes to shove, and for me it's right here in this article: not only at the limit of my tolerance for legitimising grotesquely sexist arrangements, but also the even more vexed issue of cultural diversity vs women's rights and personal safety, where I will come down on the side of the latter every time.

So I am actively appalled and offended by the fact that this straight misogyny -- because that is what it is, however dressed up it might be in notions of songs of praise and spiritual growth -- is getting an airing in a serious newspaper in a secular democracy.

Not least because it is appallingly badly written and argued.

Anonymous said...

He gave this talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at Sydney on the weekend. Apparently one of the other speakers advocated removal of all laws protecting workers from exploitation, including the protection of children. I guess it's a good idea to make a space where noxious notions can be dragged out into the light where they can be examined and given the treatment they merit.

TimT said...

I love Legal Eagle's comment on this matter in this post.

I once saw a doco on a Tibetan woman who married 5 brothers. The oldest was 30ish, the youngest was 3 years old. She said she had a favourite husband (No. 2) but the others got jealous if she paid too much attention to him. She also said husband No. 5 was quite sweet but given to toddler tantrums.

iODyne said...

Tim's information (if true) illustrates Maslow's Hierarchy Of (social) Needs, as a woman in Tibet has bigger issues than poly-mysogyny
to get through in her working day.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see how this guy arrives to the idea that managing several relationships at one time (a man, that is) should equate to considering the validity of 'progressing' into some sort of cosy legal arrangement with multiple wives and their offspring. But as Pav lucidly points out, the piece is badly argued, in addition to being seriously misogynistic. (I found B. Arndt's spin on male 'satiety' problematic when her book came out, very strange to see it used as supporting material in this piece.) I can only think that The Age is getting seriously desperate if it needs to bulk up its content in this manner, under some pretence of intellectual broad-mindedness and diversity. And speaking of media and money, as mentioned in some previous discussions here, they spent additional resources on providing an illustration (at least in the on-line edition, I haven't checked the print version.) I agree with shawjonathan that noxious notions deserve airing space so that they can be debated, but I think Festival of Dangerous Ideas should have been this article's 5 minutes of 'fame', and not a major national newspaper.

anon ed

M-H said...

I agree that was dreadfully written and badly argued, but i think that the festival itself was a good idea. And apparently Christopher Hitchens got a far bigger crowd than Cardinal Pell did. Germaine G. argued very convincingly that children are being treated as pets rather than human beings.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I would have loved to have seen/heard both Greer and Hitchens.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens was terrific, even from the choir where the acoustics were terrible. Among other things, he said, "We [that is, human beings] didn't get morality from religion. it got morality from us."

Anonymous said...

Dontcha just love religion? Pick and chose the bits you want and disregard the rest. Don't think, just obey, and if it suits your proclivities all the better!

John Birmingham gets stuck into "K-trad" boots and all on the "National Times" - and isn't the use of that title a waste of a good memory.

Perry Middlemiss

elsewhere said...

I found the Trad article kind of fascinating, in a perverse way, partly because I used to have dealings with him in a former job.

Being someone who likes their own space, I've sometimes thought that polygamy might suit me (but then there would be the other wives to share the space with, I suppose). An ex-Mormon friend told me that the men who don't make the grade in polygamous communities get culled. I'd never really thought of it before, but I suppose that demand would exceed supply after a while in these situations.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Elsewhere, indeed. As long as one had one's own right to non-serial polyandry as well.

Amanda said...

I sort of enjoyed how he approvingly quoted Bettina Arndt. Together at last.

I listen to Sydney radio for a living and Keysar is right up there with spokesfolk I am thoroughly sick of. He was Sheik Hilali's mouthpiece. Not quite as ubiquitous as he used to be but perhaps this marks a new uptick in his "outreach."

I suppose because it is so ridiculously barking that it doesn't fuss me too much -- far worse is the somewhat more subtle (and sometimes not) sexism that pervades the Age/SMH every day of the week in its normal choice or stories and graphics. They infuriate me with gratuitous "headless chicks" illustrations etc about 12 times a week.

tigtog said...

An ex-Mormon friend told me that the men who don't make the grade in polygamous communities get culled. I'd never really thought of it before, but I suppose that demand would exceed supply after a while in these situations.

There's been some attention paid to the young men who are kicked out of these communities over the last decade - a few articles and maybe a doco. They're basically taken for a drive and left on the side of the road. If they're lucky, they're given a backpack and sleeping bag. You can imagine some of the appalling things that happen to naive young men living rough who are attempting to cope emotionally with losing their whole community as well.

Anonymous said...

You were clear PC, I wasn't. I was trying to get at the idea that the challenge, for those of us who are appalled at articles like this one, at attitudes to women like these, is to get past the initial "Oh My God I'm Appalled WTF!" reaction (a totally sensible reaction, by the way) and into a more thoughtful "how can our society deal with this in a way that doesn't make things worse for the most vulnerable people involved?" and "how can we deal with this in a way that is consistent with what we believe about freedom and responsibility in a democracy". The article, and the families represented in Big Love, are situations well past my personal level of tolerance, but today I waved off lesbian friends at the airport and then my kid and I came home to my de facto partner, and I'm painfully aware that there's a reasonable number of people in our society who don't think my family or my friends' should be recognised for the purposes of family law. We are well past their level of tolerance, and I expect them to suck it up. For what it's worth, I think I only arrived at that "freedom of, erm, association" argument after several months of regularly thinking about the women invovled and how their dignity might best be maintained in a public policy type arrangement.

As for publishing badly written sexist crapola, well, the Age aint what it used to be.

Bernice said...

Given Aunty Kev's previous statements on gay marriage being a bridge too far, and his response to the Henson case, I await his rebuttal to Mr Trad with keen interest.

The referencing of Ms Arndt did at least offer a moment of WTF amusement. How do we rebut this sort of appalling nonsense? By pointing out that Australian legal traditions recognise the equality of the sexes, and that no rights can be offered to one sex without being offered to the other. Full stop. No argument. Sorry. Particularly not if you have to refer to Ms Arndt as your 'evidence'.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Well, innercitygarden, you are clearly a much nicer person than me.

I'd argue that public resistance to the likes of Keysar Trad and his 'ideas' should be maintained for the sake of all womankind, rather than stifling it for the sake of a tiny minority many -- probably most -- of whom do not, in any case, want our patronage. Anyway, I think we may be talking at cross-purposes a bit. I guess I just don't buy the analogy between these arrangements and gay couples, who are not interested in oppressing either each other or anyone else. My issue is with the public discourse around gender inequality, rather than with law and policy.

(I have no idea what Big Love is, incidentally, so I'm only dimly following that part of the argument.)

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Okay, now I've looked up Big Love and feel totally defeated. No doubt I would have seen many references to this in mags and TV guides, made barfing noises halfway through the first sentence, and then repressed it and moved on. If men lording it over assorted multiple wives is being normalised and legitimised by HBO then we are all completely fucked.

Anonymous said...

Oh Big Love is creepy and fascinating, and HBO is totally not normalising the deal for women. The main family are polygamists, but the man and his first wife weren't always, they were a regular LDS monogamous couple (and I just mistyped that as monogramous, which is something else entirely) and their children weren't always members of what the daughter calls "Church of Dad", the man was raised in a fundy environment and was kicked out. So it's about the background of this man, and of his fundy-raised second wife, and the wierdness of the LDS, the impact of secrecy on family life, the interactions of the women, how they all negotiate family life and their relationships. The first daughter totally rejects polygamy and constantly questions it as an embryonic feminist while loving (living with, and dependent on) the people involved.

It's complex and considered and I heartily recommend it, not least because you can watch it over takeaways with a crazy catholic friend and argue about public policy in regards to marriage law...

Now I should go to bed and tell my partner I've been declared nice on the internet.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Heh! Happy to oblige!

Legal Eagle said...

PC, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who felt incandescent rage upon reading Trad's article (we've even quoted the same part).

The article is so badly written. Is he sanctioning polygamy, but not for Muslims? Or is he just sanctioning polygyny?

Is he saying bigamy should be taken off the books as a crime? (There are actually arguments for that, as I've said at my place). Or is he saying that we ought to have legal mechanisms for him to have multiple wives? (Seems to be the latter).

Introducing polygyny leads to a greater inequality in society. As has been argued here, you have the high status men with multiple women, and the low status men with none. Then you have to do something with those low status men who are filled with testosterone.

And that's not even getting on to the problems that many women in polygynous relationships face. Statistically, women and kids in such an arrangement are disadvantaged, and the women tend to be unhappy and uneducated. That's not to say it doesn't work for some people (eg, the people in Big Love or whatever). But it does introduce a whole raft of complications which Trad clearly hasn't thought of (eg, custody disputes, should the state fund such relationships, etc etc).

Anonymous said...

I read your entry on this Legal Eagle, and enjoyed the rigorousness of the discussion.

Just regarding Big Love and polygyny: I watched a few episodes, and yes, you get to see the everyday humanity of these people and start to sympathise with their daily worries and begin to understand what makes them tick, but, as I saw it, the series does exactly that and nothing more—it portrays a lifestyle of a (religious) community in a way that makes it 'palatable' to the western viewer. I'm sure someone must have done a cultural studies critique on this; a postcolonial analysis would also offer a reading of what exactly goes on here, because, to my mind, the series doesn't challenge or critique the ideology that underpins these relationships, and one could argue that it still gazes at these families from the perspective of enormous ideological difference, thus reducing them to puppets, somewhat. Take the husband, for example, he is a benign creation, hard-working, devoted to all of his wives, you almost get to feel his stress of having to support his large family structure, but are there swings of doubt, is there a range of behaviours, can he really be that nice? Maybe he can, but what about some other less even-tempered personality? Wouldn't that make the wives and children entirely dependent on the husband, and his mood swings, apart from all else? I think one could make a series about a poygynyous family and locate it in another spot in the world, in another religious community, and we'd get to sympathise with the characters, including the husband, and think about their social and personal issues, but I think the point we'd arrive at is only to understand the reasons why such communities get formed in the way that they do, which wouldn't give us an answer on why is it that the women in these stories don't or can't consider other options available to them. It's the freedom of choice, as well as freedom of thought that is truly separate from ideological, religious and economic pressures, that's closed to these women, resulting in a series of long-term social, educational and personal disadvantages for them and their children. I can only view polygynous structures as a product of oppression. I'm not convinced that Big Love assisted me in seeing that polygyny works, it only showed why such communities live the lives that they do ...

anon ed

Anonymous said...

Bravo for this post. Cretins like this bloke should be hung up by the short and curlies, preferably not naked - don't know about you, but I don't like looking at small dangly bits so maybe we'll let him off. And rather amused by the word "friendship" in the title of his association. Friendly to whom I wonder. His piece (pun intended) is an insult to the many, many decent and sexy men out there who respect women. Men who don't use that diaboical expression "fell pregant".

Anonymous said...

anon ed, it's been a while since I watched the first series of Big Love, but I recall they spent a while on the everyday-ness of the whole set up before exploring more deeply the millions of reasons why it's challenging/problematic/completely f&**ed for the people involved and also why it can be appealing or offer a feeling of security. I think they do that in part because they're trying to separate the issues inherent in polygyny (sharing your partner with another woman) from issues of fundamentalist and separatist religion (limiting education and freedom of choice). As the series moves on the characters are pushed and pulled in a lot of different directions.

I don't think they ever intended to show that polygyny works any more than Seinfeld was designed to show that being single works.

Now I want to go re-watch the first series.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Big Love working, I was reflecting on Legal Eagle's comment above: 'That's not to say it doesn't work for some people (eg, the people in Big Love or whatever)'. As Big Love is being brought into the discussion regarding this article's advocacy for polygyny, I was adding my two bob's worth about why I thought the series proved to be so fascinating to the 'western' viewers.

I found Legal Eagle's post on this article quite interesting too (TimT above provides a link).

Anyway, three responses in one post is my personal record, so I think I'll turn my attention to some other burning issue, and join here again some other time.

anon ed

iODyne said...

Anon Ed - 'two bob's worth' may be a mystery to most bloggers who are less than 40 years old.

Anonymous said...

Broke my promise, but if this gets the blog close to 60 000, it’s worth it. Marshall-Stacks, well picked. ‘Two bob’s worth’ is not quite the local contemporary idiom, although I doubt it's that obscure. The choice of phrase is paradoxically related to ‘colourful linguistic influences’ (as others have volunteered to describe it), and not generational use. See, the blogosphere is truly diverse.

anon ed

Anonymous said...

I wrote a story about polyandry, "The Queen of Erewhon". It was more or less how polyandry is dictated by extreme environments, and the need to keep population growth low and not divide up landholdings into smaller and smaller inheritable portions. Marrying brothers means all the husbands have a genetic interest in the children. But it is underlaid by a certain amount of infanticide, as is polygyny. Nature, you see, has a 50/50 sex ratio in births.
Polyandry may well be an option for our increasingly dangerous future. Consider just where there are far more sons than daughters. And what happens when those lad grow up? War over women? Lucy Sussex

the wordy gecko said...

Thanks for this post. I too read this article in the SMH on the weekend, and felt queasy. I too wondered what the 'medical' reasons were for not agreeing with polyandry, in the midst of an argument that polygyny is good. I too found it offensive towards women. I think it's good he gets to have his say, as long as there's plenty of opportunity to rebut. Which is what is happening here at your blog!

feral sparrowhawk said...

The Trad article is a loathesome piece of trash, and The Age should be ashamed of itself for running it. Besides the horrific misogyny it acts to prevent intelligent discussion of what sort of relationships should be given legal and social space.

However, PC, I would take issue with this comment: "Try to think of any man you have ever met or heard of who would accept that being one of several men in any woman's life would be a spiritual experience that would allow him to grow, or that he should look on it as a song of praise for him."

The song of praise bit is a rather silly, but having been one of several men in a woman's life (whilst I had no other partners) I certainly found the experience both positive and one that enabled me to grow spiritually, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I know others who think likewise.